Schools Good OHS starts with an HSR

  • By Seir Holley
  • This article was published more than 3 years ago.
  • 15 Mar 2021

The start of the year is a valuable time to revisit the role of a health and safety representative (HSR) in your school.

An HSR is an employee who has been elected by their colleagues to represent their health and safety views in any formal discussions with management. Their role is to attempt to resolve health and safety issues in the workplace.

Consultation is a legal requirement under the OHS Act. A principal must consult with the HSR when identifying hazards, making decisions about how to control the hazards, making decisions about the adequacy of facilities, or proposing changes that may affect the heath and safety of staff.

HSRs usually participate in consultation processes through the OHS Committee, which must meet no less than four times a year. But consultation can occur in a variety of ways and is often done through regular conversations with the principal.

HSRs play an integral role in communicating with colleagues about their safety at work by regularly checking in with their colleagues about any potential hazards or safety issues. This can be done in a variety of ways – reports at staff meetings, regular emails or just informal conversations.

Your school MUST have an employee forum, or forums (such as a staff meeting) where OHS is discussed as a standing agenda item. Such a forum should occur at least once a month.

If an HSR reasonably believes that there has been a contravention to the OHS Act 2004, and the issue cannot be resolved using the agreed issue resolution procedure, they may issue a Provisional Improvement Notice.

The OHS Act 2004 recognises that workplaces have better OHS performance outcomes when employees have input before decisions are made about OHS matters that could affect them. 

It is in everyone’s best interest to ensure their workplace has an HSR! If your school doesn’t have an HSR, speak to your consultative rep about the importance of electing one or contact the AEU for advice and support.

Another important way that employees can improve the health and safety of the workplace is to ensure that they utilise DET’s hazard, incident and injury reporting system, eduSafe Plus. It is vital that employees record any incidents that have, or could have, resulted in injury to staff, visitors or contractors, including psychological hazards.

When lodged, eduSafe Plus reports go to the principal for appropriate action. Under the OHS Act, the employer is obliged to provide the HSR with any information they have about actual or potential hazards, including eduSafe Plus reports.

By entering a record onto eduSafe Plus, you are ensuring that the employer is aware and, therefore, that any required potential action can take place. This provides an opportunity for school leaders and HSRs to work together to address any reports and minimise risks.

If you experience a hazard, incident or injury at school, please ensure that you enter a report on eduSafe Plus and speak to your HSR.

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